9) What is “Member Care,” Really?

Who coined the term, “Member Care?” Was it Kelly O’Donnell, in his 2002 book, “Doing Member Care Well?” (He used it again in his 2011 book, “Global Member Care.”) These are valuable “best practices” books containing resources and input from people all over the world. (Thank you Kelly.) But we wonder who first used the term? Who made them famous? Either way, what are YOUR favorite books about Member Care? We’ve attended the “Pastor to Missionaries” conference (Thank you Barnabas International


(They also have a set of free downloadable tools at…


But where do you get your best help for Member Care? In short, who guides you? If you have a tip or an answer, please click “Comment” after the web version of this item. Thanks in advance for any help you can give!

5 Responses to 9) What is “Member Care,” Really?
  1. Margaret Reply

    Columbia International University, formerly Columbia Bible College, in Columbia, SC, has a Member Care Doctor of Ministry degree. They also offer a certificate in Member Care that is the same as the D.Min. but without the dissertation.

  2. Kelly Reply

    Excerpt from chapter one of Global Member Care Volume One

    Member care was recognized as a field in the early 1990s. It owes much to the pioneering work and positive influence of mental health professionals, largely but not entirely from North America, as well as concerned mission leaders. I believe it would be accurate to say that the status of member care as a field was significantly clarified and confirmed via the comments in the 1992 book Missionary Care: Counting the Cost for World Evangelization.

    It is encouraging to note the growing contributions to missionary care by agencies, consultants, and missionaries themselves. So much so in fact, that a field has now emerged devoted entirely to the care of mission personnel. Member care, a term which is frequently used to describe this field, refers to the commitment of resources for the development of missionary personnel by mission agencies, sending churches, and other mission-related groups. It is basically synonymous with missionary care, and I use both terms interchangeably throughout this volume (pp. 1,2).

    .…member care is an interdisciplinary field, drawing on the concepts and contributions from the behavioral and mental health sciences. It has a growing recognized body of literature, specific types of practitioners/helpers, and various techniques for effecting staff development. (p. 11).

  3. Neal Pirolo Reply

    There was a book published first in February, 1991 titled, SERVING AS SENDERS: How to CARE for your Missionaries While they are preparing to go, While they are on the field and When they come home. Some terms have been “morphed” over the years. We have come to like to use the phrase Paul used in commending the people in the church of Philippi: “I thank God every time I pray for you, for it brings back to my remembrance how you have been PARTNERS IN THE GOSPEL from the very first day even until now.” They never traveled with him, yet he called them partners. I like that. PARTNERS, fellow laborers. Different tasks; different responsibilities—yet PARTNERS in the accomplishment of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A LOT has happened in this area of missionary (member) care since that date! To the glory of God! AND, to the better care of missionaries!

  4. Editor Reply

    Great input — thanks Neal, Kelly, and Margaret.

  5. Kelly Reply

    Thanks Doug and Brigada for your question. here is a further historical note on the term “member care” ,especially in the evangelical mis community.

    Chapter one in Global MC vol 1 (2011) is on MC history, including some perspectives on the “flows and flaws” of MC, Also April 2015 IBMR there is an article I did on MC history.

    I first heard the term “member care” at the 1988 Workshop at Mis .Training in Michigan USA, facilitated by Sam Rowen and Ken Harder. The workshop title and content emphasized “member care and personnel development.” It is a term that originally, as best as I can tell, came from the US business-corporate sector. Michele and I embraced it, used it, helped popularize it .We also further defined it–as an expanded perspective and mindset for caring for mission workers, since it is a “neutral” term for security reasons, connoted belonging, and at was linked to personnel and personal development (vs problems//crises, pathology).

    We currently also like to use the acronym-term “WE” as one way to summarize core features of MC–it stands for “Well-being and Effectiveness” (and hence less of an emphasis on needing “care” and is more wholistic, and is also outcome focussed which keeps the reason why mis workers do mis work in focus).

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